Ethiopia has repatriated more than 100,000 citizens from Saudi Arabia following a violent crackdown on migrant workers, Addis Ababa’s foreign ministry has said.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom said on Thursday that up to 50,000 more citizens were still expected to return.
“Last night arrivals from Saudi reached 100,620,” Tedros said in a written statement.
“All citizens that were detained in Riyadh deportation camps are back.”
Ethiopia started repatriating its citizens from Saudi Arabia last month after a seven-month amnesty period for undocumented immigrants expired, sparking violent protests between Ethiopian migrants and Saudi police.
Foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti said repatriation efforts had been “successful so far”.
“The number is increasing over time,” Mufti said.
The Ethiopian government said three of its citizens were killed in the clashes with Saudi police.
The government said protesters did not have a permit to demonstrate and confirmed that arrests had been made, but did not say how many.
Human Rights Watch has urged Saudi authorities to launch an investigation into the violence, and warned of a potential humanitarian disaster for workers held in custody.
Dina said the repatriation operation, which started on November 13, could take two more weeks to complete.
“Hopefully we will do it as soon as possible,” he said.
“If the current pace continues, it may be it will be in a week or two.”
Large numbers of Ethiopians leave the country every year looking for work abroad, often in the Middle East.
With 91 million citizens, Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous nation and also one of the continent’s poorest; the majority of people live on less than two dollars a day.
Though it is one of the fastest growing economies on the continent, about 27 percent of women and 13 percent of men are jobless, according to the International Labour Organisation.
Facing limited job prospects and harsh economic realities back home, large numbers of Ethiopian men and women head to the oil- and gas-rich Arabian peninsula each year seeking work.
The UN refugee agency says that more than 51,000 Ethiopians risked their lives this year alone on the risky sea crossing across the Gulf of Aden, where reports are common of ships sinking or refugees drowning after being thrown out too far from the shore.
Migrants from other nations are also returning home from Saudi Arabia.
Last week, official media in Sudan said more than 11,000 workers had returned voluntarily after the amnesty ended.